Liberals’ first budget contains immigration measures

Finance Minister outlines spending to Newsfirst Multimedia

Martin C. Barry

In a conference call from Ottawa with journalists from media all over Canada last week, federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau told Newsfirst Multimedia that the Liberal government’s 2016 budget proposes to reduce immigration processing times to prioritize family reunification, while increasing funding for settlement programs to better welcome newcomers.

Reducing poverty

Morneau also said the federal government is “committed to strengthening Canada’s place in the world by ensuring that Canada’s international assistance priorities are focused on poverty reduction and by promoting peace and security.”

This year, according to Morneau, the government intends to admit 300,000 new permanent residents — the highest number since more than a hundred years ago when people were fleeing hardships and conflicts leading up to the First World War. Morneau said budget 2016 proposes to reduce processing times and make family reunification a priority in Canada’s immigration system.

Resettling Syrian refugees

He said the government intends to resettle an additional 10,000 government-assisted Syrian refugees in 2016, and reduce immigration processing times to help reunite families faster. In a statement issued by Morneau’s ministry, they say “Canadians have been deeply affected by the refugee crisis in Syria and the surrounding region and have expressed the desire to help.”

In November 2015, the Government committed $678 million over six years, starting in 2015–2016, to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by February 29, 2016, and by committing to resettle an additional 10,000 government-assisted Syrian refugees over the course of 2016. Budget 2016 provides $245 million more over five years for the identification, overseas processing, transportation and resettlement of the additional 10,000 Syrian refugees.

“We are committed to getting permanent housing for the Syrian refugees who’ve come to Canada,”  Morneau told Newsfirst Multimedia regarding some of the ways that the above sums will be spent, while adding that Immigration Minister John McCallum had previously stated that he believes permanent housing can be found by June for the 25,000 Syrian refugees who arrived in Canada by the end of February.

Resettlement procedures

“That is certainly our target in that regard,” Morneau continued. “I think you can imagine that the processing initiatives for the next group of immigrants coming is similar in the sense that we need to interview people, do health reviews and we need to ensure that we resettle people in a way that allows them to start their lives in Canada.”

According to Morneau, the 2016 budget offers immediate help to those who need it most and lays the groundwork for long-term economic growth. As of Jan. 1, he added, the Liberal government’s new middle-class tax cut will affect roughly 9 million Canadians who can expect to receive a bigger paycheque as a result.

Another measure in budget 2016, the government’s new Canada Child Benefit, is being promoted by the Liberals as “a simpler, tax-free, more generous, targeted benefit that helps those who need it most: the middle class.” They say that starting in July, nine out of ten families will receive more money than they did under the previous government.

Infrastructure spending

Morneau said budget 2016 signals a new approach that will create jobs and improve the quality of life for Canadians “today and in the future.” This includes new investments in infrastructure that total more than $120 billion over the next decade. As an immediate first step, the government will invest $11.9 billion in modern and reliable public transit, water and wastewater systems, affordable housing, and in retrofits and repairs to protect existing projects from the effects of climate change.

“Our plan will recapture the hope and optimism for the future that existed in previous generations, and put it to work for the next,” the Finance Minister added. “Real change is not just about today or tomorrow. It is about revitalizing the economy in the years and decades to come, so that it works for the middle class and helps those working hard to join it.”